WASHINGTON (NEWS CENTER) — Lawmakers in Washington are preparing to vote on a GOP-backed tax plan.
It's a fast-moving bill, with very little back and forth between Republicans and Democrats.
Democratic 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree argues it is the product of no real compromise either.
"You hear the president say he wants it done and the Republicans are going to give it to him," she said. Rep. Pingree is concerned the GOP plan would harm middle-class families, particularly by:
• Eliminating medical expense deductions
• Dismantling state and local tax deductions
• Eliminating student loan interest deduction and lifetime learning credits
• Imposing new limits on mortgage interest deduction
• Removing teacher deductions of buying school supplies
Pingree hosted a roundtable discussion Monday morning at Portland City Hall.
"I am so grateful you are all here to talk about your story," she told a group of a half-dozen individuals and community leaders who Pingree says would be most adversely impacted by the tax plan.
Sue Clifford is now five years out from her diagnosis. She suffers from lingering pain. Her previous employer provided a medical plan that covered many of the costs.
"I am a breast cancer survivor and the loss of the medical deduction would be catastrophic to many people," Clifford said. "But the current plan that I have has a family deduction of $11,000. That's $11,000 cash I have to make then pay out of my own pocket."
Clifford considers this, then adds that she is fortunate. She has insurance but the changes, she insists, would hurt many people.
"Over 8,000 people in Maine are diagnosed with cancer every year of many types and it's just a catastrophic thing for anyone," she said. "The loss of that deduction would just be a terrible thing."
From the head of the table, Pingree listens intently, nodding in agreement: "People not knowing what their future health care insurance will look like, this is even more critical."
Bob Wellington, who's seated beside Clifford, represents Maine dairy farmers with the Agri·Mark dairy cooperative. his biggest concern is Maine dairy farmers who currently are allowed to take deductions based on the number of jobs and money in the payroll. He says changes to the tax law would cripple them.
"This bill has a large impact on farmers who have invested money into joining a farmer cooperative," Wellington said. "This will end up with an increase in taxes to both farmers who invest in their own facilities and in hiring their neighbors."
Recent college graduate Jonathan Brown's concerns center on the loans he took out to pay for college. He calls the GOP plan "disappointing" and possibly a game changer for many.
"If this bill passes it would further discourage students to go to college and to have the financial means and the ability to feel as though they are capable of being able to afford a college tuition."
Those who have graduated, Brown said, would likely be forced to move to other areas and cities where there are higher paying jobs just to
cover the cost of their loans.
Pingree said she will take their concerns with her back to Washington where she's hoping for a "new," collaborative tax bill.
"I just want to make sure it benefits the middle class and I want to make sure it's good for Maine," Pingree explained. "In a state like Maine, we won't see a lot of the benefits like the ones big corporations get but we will see people who are hurt by things like the medical deduction or student loan deductions or things that really have a direct impact on whether a family or an individual can move ahead and succeed."
The bill may likely be voted on this week, Pingree says, under pressure from President Trump.
Trump on Monday morning called for more changes, more cuts and Republicans to use the bills to repeal a key requirement of the Affordable Care Act known as the "individual mandate," in which Americans who don't have health insurance are penalized.
As for Pingree, if the GOP tax bill doesn't pass, she's vowing to help create a tax reform bill with input from Republicans and Democrats that will be a better fit for the middle class.
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